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In Pakistan, an inspiring journey from teacher to farmer

15 January 2024 UNIDO

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Can a retired teacher become a successful apple farmer? 

If they’re as determined and passionate as Haji Muhammad Akram, 65, from the rugged terrains of Killa Saif Ullah, Pakistan, then the answer is a resounding yes. 

Akram’s transition to the apple orchard showcases the power of dedication. 

But it’s also a testimony to UNIDO's JICA-funded Project for Agri-food and Agro-industry Development Assistance (PAFAID), which aims to bolster the apple and cattle value chains.   

Developed at the request of the Government of Pakistan and implemented by UNIDO, PAFAID funded by Japan and the Japan International Cooperation Agency. It is helping enhance productivity and compliance capacities, particularly for farmers and herders, across various districts in two provinces. Integrating gender and youth, disseminating best practices, and upgrading farming and processing techniques, the project focuses on immediate advancements in product quality, safety, and productivity, empowering farmers and enterprises to generate additional income by producing and selling food safety-compliant products in premium markets.

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For Akram, the program was fuel for an unconventional dream. 

He eagerly absorbed the training on good agriculture practices, proper pruning, fertilization techniques, and modern packaging standards.  

Armed with this newfound knowledge, he nurtured a thriving orchard, bearing ever-larger, vibrant apples with rich flavors. 

Akram chuckles as he recalls the initial skepticism of his sons: "They didn't believe in my dream initially, but when they witnessed the transformation in our orchard, they were astounded."

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In 2022, the devastating floods in Pakistan struck his orchard, threatening to undo all his efforts. The flood damage was disheartening, but Akram remained resolute. Drawing upon the soil and water management knowledge acquired through PAFAID, he courageously initiated the journey to rebuild and revive his orchard.

The result has been extraordinary. Not only did his apple orchard recover, but it has also doubled its produce, yielding apples of unparalleled quality. 

Akram's remarkable journey has inspired beyond his family, captivating other local farmers who flock to his orchard, eager to learn from the teacher-turned-farmer.  

"It's not just about me," he emphasizes. "I want to pass on this knowledge to the next generation."

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Meanwhile, Akram's young grandson, Waheed Ullah, has become his apprentice, learning about apples, resilience, and the boundless potential of dreams, even at 65. 

As he reflects on his journey paving the way for future generations of farmers, Akram remarks with a twinkle in his eye: "It's never too late to follow your passion and dreams. PAFAID gave me the tools to make a difference, and now my grandson will grow up with this knowledge, believing he can achieve anything he sets his mind to."  

In recognition of his efforts, UNIDO recently awarded Akram with a farmer's toolkit for winning the farmer's competition on adopting good agriculture practices (GAP) in Balochistan.  

Project Name: The Project for Agri-food and Agro-industry Development (PAFAID) Assistance in Pakistan